The Crimson Horror

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Madame Vastra, Jenny and Strax agree to investigate Sweetville in Yorkshire when a dead man’s brother shows them the last thing he saw before he died was… The Doctor.

MrSweet

“Scratch the Victorian veneer and something nasty’ll come crawling out.” Ace, Ghostlight.

Once again Doctor Who comes up trumps visiting the Victorian era. The Industrial Revolution allowed the middle class leisure time to develop hobbies. At the same time Charles Darwin revolutionised notions of the natural world and botany, ornithology and entomology became popular. New techniques for the preservation of specimens such as taxidermy arose, and The Crimson Horror‘s Mrs Gillyflower (Diana Rigg) has taken this to it’s extreme level in keeping humans in giant bell jars. Each perfect little house in Sweetville is a macabre tableau of ‘respectable’ Victorian life. But, like the specimens that adorn Gabriel Chase in the similarly-themed Ghostlight, the residents of Sweetville are only temporarily dormant. The plan, to eradicate the populace for a ‘purer’ race is reminiscent of Invasion of the Dinosaurs‘ Operation Golden Age, or, as the perceptive Tweeter, blogger and podcaster John Feetenby (@feexby) so succintly put it: it’s a Steampunk Moonraker.

CrimsonBellJar

Like gherkins in a jar.

This is great, confident story-telling from Mark Gatiss, in his finest Doctor Who script to date. The Paternoster Gang more than make up for the long absence of the Doctor. Gatiss writes them just as well as Steven Moffat. Strax continues to be a brilliant comic creation and Vastra is becoming the stern matriarch of the group. I’d be wary of too many appearances from this trio though, best to keep people wanting more. We don’t get so many memorable incidental characters in Doctor Who these days either, so it’s nice to see the likes of Abigail and the ghoulish Amos.

The old-film filtered flashback as the Doctor brings Jenny up to date are excellent, immediately evoking the texture of a Hammer Horror. It’s briskly and wittily done; as are the two swift Fifth Doctor references, especially as Steve Thompson skimped on the Fourth Doctor ones last week. The reveal of the imprisoned Doctor, his hand shooting out of the hatch, made me jump for only the second time watching Doctor Who (the first is the clockwork droid doing the same thing from under Reinette’s bed). It’s genuinely disturbing to see the Doctor afflicted by the eponymous Horror, mute and barely able to move. There’s something particularly agonising about his rictus face holding his mouth permanently open.

The mystery of who or what Mr Sweet is kept the audience guessing until the end. Between the name and the scene where Mrs Gillyflower pulls the levers and her organ turns round on the wall, I thought he was going to be a Xylok. As the real villain of the piece, Diana Rigg is unsurprisingly excellent. As with Solomon in Dinosaurs on a Spaceship, a human villain can be much more chilling than an alien one, particularly her treatment of Ada, played by real-life daughter Rachel Stirling.

Crimsonstairs

The Doctor’s Yorkshire accent was very funny. I was almost expecting him to say, “Well I’ll go t’t’foot of our stairs” when he looked down the stairwell at the end.

  • The Doctor in a bowler hat seems like a nice nod to Diana Rigg’s Avengers past, and I wonder if Mr Sweet is so named for it’s similarity to Steed.
  • The Doctor seems more comfortable with his affection towards Clara this week, after whipping his arm from around her shoulders with an apology in Hide.

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Purchase Doctor Who Series 7 Part 2 on DVD from Amazon:

Doctor Who – Series 7 Part 2 [DVD]

on Blu-Ray:

Doctor Who – Series 7 Part 2 [Blu-ray]

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